Sunday, November 24, 2013

Has Peter Capaldi 'gone English' for Doctor Who?

I said back in August that if Peter Capaldi followed David Tennant's example, and spoke his first words as Doctor Who in an English accent, I might just have to give up on the series. Is that exactly what happened tonight? The new Doctor's unexpected cameo in the 50th anniversary special was heralded with the words "No sir, all thirteen!", and there wasn't a trace of Scottishness to be heard. I wasn't entirely clear, though, whether Capaldi actually spoke those words or if they were supposed to be coming from one of the other characters, and having watched that bit back again on the iplayer a couple of times I still can't work it out. The Metro review seems convinced that it was indeed Capaldi's voice and that he has therefore ditched his native accent for the role, in which case I just despair. It would mean that two out of the three Scottish actors to play the Doctor have had to 'Anglify' their voices (Sylvester McCoy being the only exception), whereas all of the nine English Doctors were able to keep their own accents. So much for Scotland's much-vaunted "valued place as a partner in the United Kingdom". After Capaldi's casting was announced, anti-independence campaign supremo Blair McDougall tweeted a risible graphic comparing Scotland's 9% share of the UK population to our 25% share of Doctors. Well, Blair, if Capaldi has indeed 'gone English', an equivalent graphic showing the percentage of Doctors who actually spoke in a Scottish accent will look considerably less healthy, won't it? Or are Scottish actors speaking to the UK in a nice, 'normal' southern accent your idea of "better together" and "the best of both worlds"?!

I'd been intending to watch the anniversary special at home, but at the last minute a friend suggested that we snap up a couple of the remaining tickets for one of the cinema showings in Edinburgh. I'm so glad I went, partly because it was on the big screen, partly because it was in 3D, but mainly because of the shared experience of watching it in a room full of passionate Doctor Who fans. It made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up a fair few times. Here were the bits that earned spontaneous cheers or rounds of applause -

1) The original title sequence and theme music from 1963.

2) David Tennant's name appearing in the opening credits.

3) Billie Piper's name appearing in the opening credits.

4) The appearance of Tom Baker's scarf around the neck of the boffin-girl.

5) The painting with David Tennant's face on it.

6) The picture of the Doctor's granddaughter Susan on the wall (someone actually shouted out "Susan!", as if they'd just seen an old friend).

7) The short clip of Christopher Eccleston.

8) Capaldi's cameo appearance.

9) The unmistakeable sound of Tom Baker's voice at the very end (this time someone positively screamed "TOM BAKER!!!!").

10) The end credits.

The only downside to seeing it in Edinburgh was that I had to make a nightmare journey home with barely any room to breathe on a train full of insufferably smug Aussie rugby supporters. One of them took a shine to a chap with an impressive moustache. "Hey, Tom Selleck, did you use that moustache to sleep with women in the 80s?" he asked about seventeen billion times. "Selleck, you're going to get LAID tonight." Oooh, how I laughed.

A Scottish woman who seemed to be channelling the "everything good came from India" man from Goodness Gracious Me said : "Isn't Scotland amazing? You just wouldn't get banter like this on the London Underground. We'd all be sitting in silence, ignoring each other". For the first time in...well, possibly ever, I found myself contemplating London's superior virtues.

Don't worry. I'm still a Nat!


  1. I assumed the line wasn't Capaldi but the one of the other characters. It's possible it was Capaldi but why even bother when it was a line that was never explicitly flagged up as his? Bearing in mind that was during the biggest moment in the episode.

    It's too early to tell TBH but I too think it would be a huge mistake for Capaldi not to keep his accent simply because he is at his very best when using it.

    As for the episode it was great but let's just say I think it was already showing that Moffat has so many other commitments like Sherlock. As long as you view it as a one episode celebration and don't look too closely at it then it did just what the BBC wanted.

    It's entirely understandable why more of the other doctors couldn't be included yet I still consider Moffat's handling the climax to be surprisingly cursory. For all the excellent little nods and callbacks from the series the royal 'love interest'comic relief was a bit too toecurling with that unfortunate Doctor Who whimsy that it sometimes falls into the trap of all too easily.

    The time war and Hurt were also given a fairly paper thin treatment when it came to fleshing them out and that was a shame.

    For all that I still thought it was a great episode. I've always been a fan and do enjoy watching how they proceed with the series.

    Perhaps the more revealing thing about Capaldi was having the plot arc of his starting episodes pretty much laid out for us. It's fairly safe to say we're gong to end up with the Doctor in Capaldi making some observations and discoveries about which is his 'real' home planet as things proceed.

    Anyway, thanks for the article James, good food for thought as usual.

  2. I dont think that was Capaldi's voice, Im pretty it was somebody elses who said all 13. Anyway Baker and Capaldi were the highlights for me.